Artful councilmember Stephen Levin. (image via Wikipedia)

Artful councilmember Stephen Levin. (image via Wikipedia)

In a recent announcement, New York City Councilmember Stephen Levin “signed on” to One Percent for Culture, an initiative of the Fund for the City of New York. Reached by phone yesterday afternoon, Councilmember Stephen Levin told Hyperallergic, “The arts are an important part of the fabric of New York City as a whole, and this is especially true in my district … I have a very high percentage of artists who live and work here and the percentage seems to grow every year.”

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The 33rd Council District (image via)

Citing his relationship with the arts nonprofit umbrella organization Fractured Atlas, with whom he has “worked very closely,” Councilmember Levin underscored the importance of the arts to New York City’s economy and overall identity. “[W]e’re not looking for huge subsidies or disproportionate support,” he said of One Percent’s advocacy, which proposes that 1% of the city’s budget be allocated to arts funding, a four-fold increase from present levels (approximately 0.25% of the municipal budget).

Asked if such spending on the arts is a cultural subsidy or an investment strictly-defined, Councilmember Levin said such expenditures “get recycled back into the economy and help our local tax base …  I don’t really know the exact economics of it, but it seems to me that the arts, particularly in my district, generate substantial economic activity, so it’s absolutely a wise use [of funds].”

Ever-mindful of his constituency, Levin riffed more generally on the importance of cultivating the arts in the outer boroughs, adding that a recent drive down Brooklyn’s Livingston Street prompted him to realize that it would make a great gallery district. “The architecture is there,” he said.

Sure, why not.

Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.